Never. My 19th novel and 23rd book Killing Custer, out this September, is just as big a thrill as the first book I sold thirty-some years ago. I remember the day when the phone rang and an editor said to me the words every author wants to hear: I read your manuscript. I love it. I want to publish it. I hung up and shouted to the roof tops with joy. Probably the greatest day of my life, with the exception, of course, of my wedding day and the days my children were born.
I am still shouting with joy. Each book seems like a kind of miracle, a great might-not-have-been if something in the universe hadn’t propelled me to my computer each morning and forced me to stay put until the story developed and matured to the point where it could be born.
Yes, I have always thought that having a book published is a bit like giving birth to a 25-year-old child. I have done my parenting job, all I can do to smooth my child/book’s way in the world, and now I am left to sit back and hope for the best. I cannot accompany my child/book on her journey. I cannot explain her if she doesn’t make sense or apologize if she turns out to be rude or, worse, incredibly boring. I can only cross my fingers and hope she will find her place, get along with people, make a lot of friends, and have a long, happy life.
At first, the thrill came from realizing that my little story would be on shelves in bookstores and libraries, that people out there somewhere might pick it up and read it and might even review it. All of which seemed miraculous. What I didn’t realize was the way in which each book would change my own life, spin it around in new directions. Each book—including Killing Custer—has led me to experiences I couldn’t have anticipated. Cities and towns I doubt I would have ever visited, libraries, book clubs, and dozens of organizations that, without the books, would never have invited me to speak, book festivals around the country where I sat on panels with some of my favorite authors whom I would never have had the chance to meet.
The best, of course, is the new people the books have brought into my life. Strangers who have become friends. The experts—scientists, lawyers, judges, doctors, detectives, forensic specialists, coroners, professors—kind enough to help me get my stories right. People who read my books, come to book signings, shake my hand, invite me to lunch or dinner. People who take the time to write to me about my characters, Father John and Vicky Holden, as if they were old friends. As if they actually existed! The man who wrote how much he would like to spend an hour chatting with Father John. The woman who said she had never enjoyed reading until she read one of my books. She read them all, she said, and hasn’t stopped reading since.
And the people who write me about the ways in which my stories have changed their lives.
Now that is the greatest thrill of all.